Thursday, July 31, 2014

Teens ban on tanning goes nowhere

In the same week the U.S. Surgeon General called for immediate action to reduce the rate of skin cancer, the North Carolina General Assembly failed to act on a bill that would have banned the use of tanning beds by teens.

The Youth Skin Cancer Protection was OK'd by the North Carolina House of Representative last year by a vote of 94-22, and dermatologists across the state had hoped the Senate would follow suit.

"It's a sad irony that we received the news about North Carolina tanning bed bill the same week as the U.S. Surgeon General issued a national call to action on skin cancer," said Dr. Brent Mizelle, president of the North Carolina Dermatology Association. "We are disappointed that North Carolina teens will not be among those who enjoy this protection."

Eleven states have prohibited minors from using tanning beds.

Similar legislation has been opposed by the American Suntanning Association, a group of tanning salon owners whose website says they are "dedicated to taking immediate action to correct misconceptions about sunbed salons in the press, the medical community and in state and federal government bodies." 

Earlier this week, acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak said no previous surgeon general has ever said "UV radiation is bad for you; protect your skin."

"We have to change the social norms about tanning," he said. "Tanned skin is damaged skin, and we need to shatter the myth that tanned skin is a sign of health."

The report was released just two months after the Food and Drug Administration said it would require manufacturers to put warnings on tanning beds, cautioning against their use by anyone under the age of 18. 

Skin cancer is on the rise, according to the American Cancer Society, with more cases diagnosed annually than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer cases combined.

Nearly 5 million people are diagnosed and treated for skin cancer each year. From 1973 to 2011, the rate of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, increased more than 200 percent, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Will fist bumps replace handshakes in the hospital?

In June, the well-respected Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that proposed "Banning the Handshake From the Health Care Setting."

Given the problem with hand hygiene and transmission of infections in hospitals, this isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.

But I bet the authors of the JAMA article didn't realize that another study, to be published in August in the American Journal of Infection Control, would take their proposal to the next level.

The newer piece concludes that “fist bumping” -- the gesture made popular by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during the 2012 election campaign -- transmits significantly fewer bacteria than a handshake or a high-five.

Researchers from the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in Wales found nearly twice as many bacteria were transferred during a handshake compared to a high-five, and significantly fewer bacteria were transferred during a fist bump than a high-five.

“Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals,” said author David Whitworth. “It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake; however, for the sake of improving public health we encourage further adoption of the fist bump as a simple, free, and more hygienic alternative to the handshake.”

I won't hold my breath until this change of habit takes place. But any reminder that we should be more careful about transmitting germs in the hospital is welcome.

The hands of health-care providers frequently spread potentially harmful germs to patients, leading to "health-care associated infections," among the leading causes of preventable harm and death in the United States.